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Additional 700 People Alive Today Thanks to Higher SLUHN COVID Survival Rate
March 20, 2023

St. Luke’s Nurse Practitioner Melanie Rivera in March 2020, donning the PPE, or personal protective equipment, that would become such a big part of the pandemic experience for health care workers.

On March 11, 2020, the World Health Organization declared the COVID-19 infection a global pandemic. St. Luke’s University Health Network admitted the Lehigh Valley’s first COVID-19 patient just nine days later – exactly three years ago. Since then, St. Luke’s has handled thousands of COVID cases and saved thousands of lives.

Thanks to St. Luke’s exceptional care and many innovations, the Network was significantly more successful at saving the lives of COVID-19 patients than many other health care systems and hospitals nationwide, according to St. Luke’s statistical analysis of hospital data drawn from PINC AI™, a leading technology and services platform owned by Premier Inc. of Charlotte, NC. Using this data, comprised of quality outcomes results from more than 1,300 U.S. hospitals, St. Luke’s found that the Network saved 700 more COVID-19 patients than would have been the case if the Network had performed similarly to a typical U.S. hospital.

“An additional 700 Lehigh Valley residents – our family members, neighbors and friends – are alive today because they were able to be treated for COVID-19 at St. Luke’s,” said St. Luke’s President & CEO Rick Anderson. “Industry experts acknowledge that the survival rate at St. Luke’s was much higher than statewide and nationally.”

“The early days of the pandemic before the development of effective treatments and vaccines were a very difficult time for our community and our health care providers,” Anderson said. “Despite the very serious risks to their own health and safety, our physicians, nurses, other caregivers and all our staff throughout our entire Network went to work day in and day out, providing the very best care and a human touch when it was needed most. They were brave, they were selfless, and they were heroes – and that is something I will never take for granted nor forget.

“The profound impact of the outstanding results accomplished through the incredible teamwork of St. Luke’s doctors, nurses and other staff over the course of the pandemic cannot be overstated and should not be undervalued. Think of the heartbreak our community has been spared: Seven-hundred extra lives saved! For each of these individuals who did not die of COVID-19, there are multiples of family members, relatives, friends, colleagues and countless others who have not had to grieve.”

Why were St. Luke’s COVID-19 patients more likely to survive serious infection than those who received treatment elsewhere? “At St. Luke’s, doctors, nurses and other caregivers worked collaboratively to develop and deploy new techniques and technologies at every level of care,” explained Jeffrey Jahre, MD, St. Luke’s Senior Vice President of Medical & Academic Affairs and Section Chief Emeritus of Infectious Diseases.

Among these many innovations:

In addition to achieving a higher survival rate among hospital inpatients, St. Luke’s also played a key role managing the pandemic, helping to “flatten the curve” and manage the community, for example:

St. Luke’s exceptional COVID care extends to the post-acute infection experience as well. In March 2021, the Network established the first “long-COVID syndrome” program in the region, and one of the first in the nation, to assess and treat recovered COVID patients who continued to experience lingering minor symptoms after three months, including fatigue, brain fog, muscle aches, heart muscle dysfunction, lung damage, depression, loss of smell and other complaints. In some cases, diagnostic imaging was performed to rule out more serious heart and lung conditions.

According to the program’s director, Dennis McGorry, MD, family medicine, to date more than 6,000 patient visits have been completed via the eight clinics throughout SLUHN for treatment of long-COVID, including speech, physical and occupational therapy, mental health care and medication prescribing.

“Fortunately, as the COVID cases become milder, due to access to the vaccines and boosters, we are seeing fewer patients with this post-acute COVID syndrome, but we are still prepared to care for them,” McGorry said.